Midway through this fifth consecutive defeat, Yanni Gourde and his Kraken teammates knew they had another horror show on their hands.
They were already down four goals to the New York Islanders, giving up four times the shots as they had in their favor and falling into much the same defensive zone trap as they had in a prior night’s loss in Vancouver. And while Gourde would finally wake up his team by scoring in the latter part of Tuesday night’s middle frame, it wasn’t enough to prevent a 5-2 loss in their first game back at Climate Pledge Arena following a tough road trip through Western Canada.
“We weren’t really good in our D-zone,” Gourde said after it was done. “We didn’t kill plays quick enough, so they were able to extend their O-zone time. And we weren’t able to respond to their offense.”
At least, not until Gourde scored to put his team on-the-board at a time they trailed 4-0 and faced a 24-6 shots deficit. Riley Sheahan would score again on a bad hop off the end boards early in the third and then the Kraken would have what coach Dave Hakstol termed about “five outstanding scoring chances” right after while failing to convert.
But that’s been the story of the season, one in which the Kraken often need five or six exceptional opportunities to put even one puck into the net. The story has also been of a team that doesn’t always put full 60-minute efforts in and none of the announced 17,151 in the crowd watching last night would argue that the first 30-plus minutes were a writeoff.
Zach Parise had a pair of goals to pace the Islanders, including an empty netter with 1:58 to go and Philipp Grubauer on the bench for an extra attacker. Former Seattle Thunderbirds captain Mathew Barzal collected an assist on an early goal.
It was initially ruled that Parise had interfered with goalie Grubauer, so the goal was waved off. But upon video review, it was determined Mark Giordano have shoved Parise into Grubauer and the goal was upheld.
That made it 2-0 heading to intermission with the Islanders outshooting the home team 13-4.
Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas then made it 4-0 halfway through the second, the latter of those goals also coming on a bad hop off the end boards that went straight to the Islanders players with Grubauer out of position. At that point, it looked as if the Kraken were about to get run out of the rink before Gourde won a faceoff 45 seconds later and wristed a puck past netminder Ilya Sorokin.
From there, a switch seemed to flip and the Kraken ignited with energy.
“By the end of the second, beginning of the third we played way more in the O-zone which allowed way more shots,” Gourde said. “We had a shooting mentality in the second and the third and extended our O-zone time.”
There had been similar talk after Monday’s loss in Vancouver about the Kraken needing to exit their zone quicker. But while that was more a result of a somewhat desperate Vancouver team pressing to make things happen, the more disciplined, structured Islanders simply waited for the Kraken to make mistakes.
“It’s similar in certain ways for sure,” Sheahan said. “We’ve got to figure out our D-zone a bit and communicate down there and kind of make plays. Just be a little more relaxed.”
Sheahan agreed the Gourde goal seemed to relax his team a little bit after a first half of the game in which the Kraken lacked energy.
“It definitely got us some momentum and we were able to string together some shifts and play to our strengths,” he said. “I think when we can forecheck like we were, move the puck around in the O-zone and get it to the net and kind of build off that, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Hakstol had worried coming in off the trip that energy might be in short supply. The Kraken had a handful of early chances on odd-man rushes, but failed to register a shot on goal.
“We couldn’t generate any momentum off of that and obviously dug the hole the first half of the game,” Hakstol said.
Hakstol said his group felt “the strain” of where they were, down 4-0 and getting plastered with shots. The Gourde goal lifted that somewhat, but not enough.
“There’s no magic formula to it,” he said. “We came in on a back-to-back tonight and we didn’t have a lot of energy early. We needed to somehow give ourselves that injection of life with something early offensively and we couldn’t find that.”